INVESTIGATION OF THE MYCOFLORA OF DETERIORATING TOMATOES (Solanum lycopersicum Mill.) SOLD IN LOKOJA MARKETS, KOGI STATE, NIGERIA
The deterioration of tomatoes poses significant risks to public health as it can lead to the growth of fungi that produce harmful mycotoxins. This study focused on investigating the mycoflora associated with deteriorating tomatoes sold in selected Lokoja markets, Kogi State, Nigeria. A total of eighteen (18) samples, each containing three deteriorating tomatoes were randomly collected from six vendors in three different markets. Standard microbiological methods were employed to analyze the samples. The results revealed the presence of Aspergillus niger, Microsphaeropsis arundinis, Penicillium sp. and Rhizopus arrhizus as the predominant fungi in the deteriorating tomato samples. Samples from Adankolo market yielded the highest mean fungal load (4.63 × 106 CFU/g) and was significantly different (p≤0.05) from those of Old market (2.78 × 106 CFU/g) and Lokongoma market (2.67 × 106 CFU/g). Notably, A. niger had the highest occurrence (48.9 %) while R. arrhizus had the lowest occurrence (2.2 %). The presence of these fungal contaminants highlights the lack of fungi-free deteriorating tomatoes in Lokoja markets. The high occurrence of Aspergillus niger and the overall fungal load levels highlight the potential health risks associated with consuming these tomatoes. Consequently, the consumption of deteriorating tomatoes should be discouraged due to the potential health risks associated with mycotoxin production by these fungi. Strategies to mitigate fungal growth and spoilage of tomato in the markets as well as further research on mycotoxin production and health implications are fundamental for ensuring food safety and protecting public health.